SINGAPORE: World number one Simona Halep pulled out of next week’s WTA Finals due to a lower back injury on Thursday, handing first alternate Kiki Bertens a spot at the season-ending eight-woman event in Singapore for the first time.
The French Open champion pulled out of last month’s China Open after just 31 minutes, and withdrew from this week’s Kremlin Cup because of the persistent problem.
“Unfortunately, after much discussion with my team and doctors, I have made the decision to withdraw,” the 27-year-old Romanian said on her verified Twitter account of an injury sustained during training ahead of the Wuhan Open last month and later diagnosed as a herniated disc.
“The decision was tough for sure. It’s always difficult to withdraw from a big tournament. Actually, I think it’s the first time in my life. So it was a tough decision but it’s better for my health.
“My back is not ok. I didn’t practice for the last four weeks. I’m not ready to compete at this level and I’m still sore. It’s not easy to go on court and compete at this moment.”
It has been a disappointing end to a spectacular season for Halep, which saw her secure the year-end number one ranking in the WTA standings for the second year running.
Halep spent 40 weeks at number one in 2018, and won three titles from a tour-leading six final appearances, amassing a 46-11 win-loss record.
She won the Shenzhen Open, the Rogers Cup and her maiden Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros. In addition, she reached the title match at the Australian Open, in Rome and Cincinnati.
“I wanted to finish 2018 on a high after such an incredible year, but sadly my back injury hasn’t healed the way we hoped it would and I need to put my long-term health first,” she added.
“I’m sad I won’t be able to play the fifth and final edition in Singapore, but I’m confident this is the right decision and will do everything I can to be back fighting my place at the WTA Finals next year.
“Singapore is a special city and I’m sure the fans will enjoy seeing some fantastic women’s tennis this week.”
In her absence, Bertens, who finished ninth in the Race to Singapore standings, will be making her WTA Finals debut in the last version of the $7 million tournament from October 21-28 in Singapore after a five-year run in Southeast Asia.
The 26-year-old will be first Dutchwoman to compete at the season-ending showpiece in more than 20 years, since Brenda Schultz-McCarthy lost in the first round in 1997.
Bertens has won three tournaments this season, including a victory over Halep to claim the Cincinnati Masters title.
Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have also qualified for the event which will move to Shenzhen next year.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2018